Jim Jones – Keeping up with the Jones


It’s about to be a busy year for Jim Jones, and the Harlem Capo is staying focused. Catch him if you can.


Is it 1995? The scene at Chung King Studios in Downtown NYC seems familiar, even nostalgic. Dame Dash is here—pearly-white AF1s laced Harlem-style, throwing his customary imaginary dice—while the upstart he’s co-signing kicks back on a leather couch. Tonight’s about the future, though, not the past: Jay-Z is nowhere to be found, Dame is no longer the CEO of Rocafella, and the focus of his marketing might this time around is Jim Jones.

Two years after “Ballin’” became the biggest rap banger in recent memory, Jones is looking to get his momentum back.


It’s a cliché for an artist to say he’s paper-chasing, but after inking three separate deals (with Koch, Sony and Asylum), it seems as though Jimmy means it. Like, Really Means It. So, as is fitting a man like Mr. Multitask, he’s got a new album (Pray for Reign), a Dash-produced documentary and a handful of acting spots coming down the pike.

The thing is, between the swag-splashing diatribes most fans know him for, Jones does come down to earth from time to time. Seeing his son in the documentary makes him shed a tear, talking about his girlfriend of four years makes him smile, and his rocky relationship with Cam’ron hits him somewhere in the middle. Then there’s his feelings toward Jay, which might just border on hate. Regardless of what mood he’s in at any given moment, though, Capo’s a dude who’s impossible to ignore. We say that to say this: Don’t be surprised if Dame gets his wish this year. Mainstream, you might wanna get prepped, because here comes Jimmy.

You have a guest role on the Starz show Crash. What else are you getting into for ’09?

Jim Jones: Well, the sky’s the limit, man. There are so many things I want to do. We just started a comedy division together: me, Dame and Mike Epps. We’re getting ready to do the big concert with Epps, and we got a soundtrack to the comedy show. It’s called From Hollywood to Harlem—it should be really funny. Mike Epps is brilliant. I want to explore the movie world through comedy and try to get in that way. Not too many people know me in Hollywood, and that’s the place I need to be. I need everybody to know me.

And what about the play you’re starring in?

Jim Jones: I’m doing a play called Hip-Hop Monologues Off-Broadway. It’s something we derived for my new album. You know how everybody does a listening session and all the publicity comes through, and there’s a little bit of liquor there, and they play the music? I got tired of doing that; I wanted to do something very different. Something to gain people’s attention ’cause I want this album to be a real success. We’re going to do the best verses that fit the situation out of all the songs to pull this play off, and then we’re going to have a full stage set, the backgrounds, and are just going to paint the whole picture. But for the most part, I’ll be how John Leguizamo was in Freak; I’ll be the center of attention.

Meanwhile, your relationship with Cam’ron is at a standstill. It seems like that souring has had the most effect on you.

Jim Jones: It’s definitely hard, because that’s my nigga, that’s my brother. We rolled together for a very long time, and there are things I remember we said that we would never do. And now that we’ve got so much success, we’re doing all the things we watched people do and said that wouldn’t be us. It’s the ego; it has to be. This is a question I’ve asked myself over and over again. That’s the only way I see it. Amongst everything else, there was a couple things said on my part, but I can do that if I want to. Above all, I kept it fair; I could really expose shit, but that’s not what I’m here for. Once your ego becomes bigger than money, you can’t get anywhere. It’s a sad thing—we’ve built so much. Everywhere around the world, people know the Diplomats as a strong entity. And it’s at a halt due to the fact we’ve been going back and forth through this minute bullshit.

He finally came out and said that he couldn’t rock with you because you appeared onstage with 50, kind of questioning your loyalty.

Jim Jones: He’s questioning my loyalty? He was questioning himself. At that point in time when I did [appear onstage with 50], I was doing all business. I was doing what was best for Jimmy, what was best for my career. It was in my best interest to do publicity stunts and get hype. He was nowhere to be found, so who is he to be questioning what I was doing? He couldn’t do that from the get-go because I helped start all this. What went on between him and 50 was a mockery—that was niggas making jokes. That was a YouTube snap battle. It was nothing remotely physical about that battle. I can’t indulge in fun and jokes that’s like wrestling.

In the documentary, there’s mention that Jay-Z stole the beat for “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” from you and Cam, that Kanye agreed to give the beat to you guys. What’s the story behind that?

Jim Jones: Kanye came to our studio session at Sony, and he was playing some beats back when we were all signed to Rocafella. Cam was about to come out with Come Home With Me, so we told Kanye we wanted to buy the song “H to the Izzo.” It was an understanding we had between us and Kanye because we were all under the same label. So then, I’ll never forget it, we’re at Cam’s house and this hip-hop award show comes on [BET Awards, 2001], and Cam and I are watching it on his couch, and we’re like, “Next year we’re gonna be up there.” So they announce that Jay-Z is about to perform his new single off The Blueprint, and the dude comes out with the “H to the Izzo” beat. Cam and I look at each other like, Oh, we’re going to kill Kanye. Oh my God, when we catch this nigga,we’re going to do something terrible to him. And that’s how Cam ended up getting the “Down and Out” beat. Kanye gave it to him free of charge as payback.

You and Dame have criticized Jay-Z for continuing to rap at his age; do you think you’ll hang up the mic when you’re his age?

Jim Jones: Pretty much. I don’t think my pride or my ego will let me do it. As a joke, maybe, like Will Smith does every now and again. He’s making $20 million a movie—he doesn’t give a fuck. But for me to base my whole life and career and every dollar I make off of rapping and keep on doing this in my 40s, I don’t see that happening for me. Who wants to be stuck in here in their 40s dealing with these youngsters? You fuck around and slip and get your head cracked wide open at 40, you ain’t recovering like you was 20.

You hear it all the time, but NY rap is still not back to being at the forefront of rap. Who else would you enlist to bring the game back?

Jim Jones: Without my own personal hatred—I got to put all my feelings aside—to bring NY back properly, I would definitely put the Lox as a whole. Definitely 50. I fuck with 50, and beyond everything we got a mutual understanding. I think we think alike in some ill twisted way. But, it’s still aggressive competition above all, because we all trying to eat out the same pot.

So even with personal hatred aside, Nas and Jay are still not on the roster?

Jim Jones: To bring New York back? Shit, why they ain’t bring it back already? It would’ve been back. I didn’t even think about them. The integrity of their music right now is not where we come from any more. Nas is still stuck in Africa, and Jay is talking about way too much money and Merrill Lynch talk and shit like that.

You’ve said that there’s no more Rocafella, but Kanye has had great success, and he still claims the Roc.

Jim Jones: I don’t know if he’s actually with Jay-Z from the looks of things. From what I’ve been seeing from since we were signed until now, I think Kanye actually hates Jay-Z. [Dame Dash interrupts:] No, he actually does. He hated Jay-Z ever since he wouldn’t give him a fucking Rocawear chain in Chicago! I’m telling you.

Jim Jones: I don’t know if the song “Big Brother” was correct, but he might’ve hated him since he didn’t give him those tickets to Madison Square Garden.

Damon Dash: This was before that. He was already in full hate by that time. [Laughs.] This nigga [Kanye] was like, “Wow, he ain’t going to give me the chain.” I had to take off my chain and give it to him, and I was heated. I had the real canary diamonds. That shit cost $40,000! I told Kanye, “Yo, you got to give that back when we get off this stage!”

Jim, do you have any theories?

Jim Jones: Jay-Z never sells as much as Kanye. Jay-Z wishes he could sell as many records as Kanye. So he’s only beating him with terrible swag. Like over there, their swag is terrible. They having a terrible swag contest. It’s really bad over there.

You warned Kanye to keep your name out of his mouth after he said some things about you and Juelz closing Summer Jam. Would you ever fully go at him?

Jim Jones: Kanye?! I like making jokes about him, but Kanye is somebody you can just punch his chest old-school style, cave his chest in and shit like that. Like don’t ever, ever, ever talk about me again in your life! It’s just a joke to me. I’m just having fun. I heard him ranting and raving about my name and shit. How would I look having an issue with Kanye? I’d love to work with him. I need a beat from him. I think that’s why I’m most mad. Matter fact, I’ma fuck you up if you don’t give me a beat! [Laughs.]

Dame has been working hard on your documentary. How did you feel about the finished product?

Jim Jones: The doc was informing to me, to watch all of that. It’s different when you’re living your life, and then you sit down and watch clips of your life, and people talking about you. I ain’t going to front—I think I shed a tear. I actually did shed a tear, especially when I saw my son in it. I give Dame his props on that one; he nailed that one all the way to the T. I didn’t see his vision at first, but he made it come true. A lot of people get to see me in a different light, and get to see the method to my madness. A lot of people choose to call me crazy, but being crazy is not necessarily a bad thing.

It’s going to be hard to follow up the success of “Ballin’.” How do you respond to people saying you’re still riding the coattails of that song?

Jim Jones: People are going to say that. Most people think that I started from “Ballin’” and that I’m on top of the world because of that song. But this has been 12 years in the making. I’m doing this for a long time, and for the most part everything I’ve done only got better, so I’m not going to stop now. I don’t think this 12-year run is about to stop this year. We’re going to ride into real music on my album, that I think will solidify my spot as a contender in the game, especially because I’m coming out on Columbia.

How high are your expectations for the new album? 50, Jay and ’Ye are all dropping in December as well.

Jim Jones: Oh, shit, welcome. You’re all welcome to drop. I win off top. Whether or not, it doesn’t matter. I come from a different place. I came from nothing. First album was 300,000, second album 400,000, this album gold. Shit, anything over that, I win. Ballgame. I’ll look like a genius. I might crack platinum, and then I’ll get to laugh at people. I’d look like…. Nah, I’m not even going say, because that’s blasphemy.

Look like what?

Jim Jones: I was going to say I would look like God, but that’s blasphemy. But something similar to that. At the end of the day, you have to stay relevant out here. It’s obvious that I got a good say-so in the game right now. People fuck with me and I fuck with them. I appreciate that and it feels good. I’m not supposed to be here.

Where are you supposed to be?

Jim Jones: Shit, I don’t know. Maybe I am supposed to be here, but the route I was taking for a while… [Shakes his head.] It’s a dream to be here right now, man.

Story By Joe La Puma | Photography By Phil Knott | Styling by Anoma Ya Whittaker


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Joe La Puma is currently the Director of Content Strategy at Complex Media, handling big idea generation and execution along with the social networking of Complex's content. He's conducted cover stories with everyone from Katy Perry and Justin Bieber to Rick Ross and Kid Cudi.
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